When I was a kid growing up on Bermuda, a British island about 700 miles off the coast of North Carolina, there were symbols that were emblematic of America. It was a different world in the fifties and sixties than it is now. There was another view of the United States then and with the island's unique history of being British but having played some role in the American Revolution generally the British and American population got along. There were certain hallmarks that represented America for reasons that made sense at the time. Pan American Airways, American Express, the Stars and Stripes at the US Consulate and Coca-Cola. Those symbols also represented ideals that America stood for just as much as the Statue of Liberty does.
Sometimes I wonder now what the perception of our country is to the rest of the globe. My gut tells me it's McDonalds, Mickey Mouse and Reality TV shows and rampant consumerism. This is disappointing to me but not a surprise. The global view of "America as a shining city on a hill" is already tarnishing to some but not to others who want to immigrate here because they still see the gleam of American Exceptionalism. Those are people who will help us help ourselves just as immigrants have from the beginning. When I emigrated here in 1968 the country was rife with strife but that is not what I was looking for or saw. It was the chance for reinvention, opportunity to be who I wanted to be, liberate myself from the tiny limited, although paradise-like, island I came from and invigorate my life.
We are a country now of several generations that have never known a really bad time economically, socially and politically. We are not prepared for what is going to happen to us psychologically due to the disruption of our way of life. The death of consumerism, personal financial problems, troops returning from war, structural unemployment, lack of social and medical services, alcohol and drug abuse are a few things that come to mind. We are in desperate need of reconstructing ourselves. In The Sense of Beauty Santayana wrote "The only kind of reform usually possible is the kind from within; a more intimate study and intelligent use of the traditional reforms." He also noted "Nothing enhances a good so much as to make sacrifices for it." Our problems, individually and as a country will not be solved by politicians and bureaucrats in government nor medical doctors and scientists with medicinal cures. They will only be resolved by recalling our ideals and working from within ourselves and reaching outward to help each other.